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STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES

FROM SPRINKLES CUPCAKES, BEVERLY HILLS

Often proclaimed the first cupcake bakery, Sprinkles Cupcakes shot to fame in 2006, when Oprah raved about them on her talk show. "Strawberry is one of our most popular flavors," says founder Candace Nelson, now a judge on TV's Cupcake Wars. "They're a pretty pink hue, naturally colored and sweetened by beautiful pureed strawberries in both the cake and frosting!"



LEMONADE SUNSHINE CUPCAKES

FROM EVELYN'S KITCHEN, NEW YORK CITY

Since opening Evelyn's Kitchen in East Harlem in 2009, former events planner Ayala Donchin has made a name for herself catering celebrity parties and supplying high-end Manhattan restaurants with her stellar baked goods. "Our Lemonade Sunshine Cupcakes developed a cult following," says Donchin. "There is just something so unique about the combination. It's the zing of lemony tartness and the subtlety of creamy white chocolate that make them addictive!"



DREAMCAKES PEANUT BUTTER CUP CUPCAKES

Makes: 16 cupcakes Hands-on time: 1 hour Total time: 2 hours

½ cup cocoa

1 cup boiling water

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup, plus 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk together cocoa and boiling water until blended and smooth; cool.

3. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

4. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

5. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling each cup two-thirds full. Bake 12 to 15 min. Cool completely on wire racks.

6. Insert a round metal tip into a large decorating bag; fill with 1 cup cooled Chocolate Ganache. Insert metal tip 1 inch into top of cupcake; squeeze about 1 tbsp. filling into cupcake. Repeat process with remaining cupcakes. Place remaining ganache in squeeze bottle; set aside.

7. Spread Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting onto cupcakes. Drizzle each cupcake with reserved ganache.



CHOCOLATE GANACHE

Place 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil; remove from heat. Place 8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped in a bowl. Gradually add hot cream to the chocolate, whisking until melted and smooth. Mixture will thicken as it cools.



PEANUT BUTTER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

Beat ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened and 1 cup creamy peanut butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; beat at low speed until blended. Add 1/3 to ½ cup heavy cream and 2 additional cups powdered sugar; beat at low speed until blended. Add more cream, beating until frosting is easy to spread.



PEANUT BUTTER CUP CUPCAKES

FROM DREAMCAKES, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

A former Southern Living recipe tester, Dreamcakes owner Jan Moon boasts, "People go crazy over our Peanut Butter Cup Cupcake. It's a classic pairing of chocolate cake filled with ganache, then frosted with peanut butter buttercream," says Moon. "Then we top it with chocolate ganache to make it even more irresistible!"



COCONUT CUPCAKES

FROM SOCIETY BAKERY, DALLAS

In 2010, The Ellen Degeneres Show named Society Bakery's cupcakes among the 10 best in the U.S., but Dallasites have been fans of the bake shop since it opened in 2003. Owner Roshi Muns describes their Coconut Cupcake as a modern take on a vintage favorite. "Our customers are always shocked that we use coconut in the cupcake as well as shredded coconut on top of the icing," she says. "And people in Texas fondly remember Seven-Minute Frosting as a favorite from their childhood."



SOCIETY BAKERY COCONUT CUPCAKES

Makes: 18 cupcakes Hands-on time: 45 min. Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/3 cups sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. coconut extract

¾ cup milk

Easy Seven-Minute Frosting

Sweetened, shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, egg whites, vanilla and coconut extract, beating until blended.

3. Add coconut mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with coconut mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.

4. Spoon batter into lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks. Top with Easy Seven-Minute Frosting. Sprinkle with coconut.



EASY SEVEN-MINUTE FROSTING

Combine ¾ cup sugar, ¼ tsp. cream of tartar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/3 cup pasteurized egg whites in large bowl; add ¼ cup boiling water. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.



SPRINKLES STRAWBERRY CUPCAKES

Makes: 12 cupcakes Hands-on time: 1 hour 20 minutes Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes

2/3 cup halved fresh strawberries

¼ cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 egg whites

1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. Kosher salt

Strawberry Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350. Puree strawberries in food processor. Combine with milk and vanilla; set aside.

2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg and egg whites, one at a time, at medium speed.

3. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture. Begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition.

4. Spoon batter into lined muffin pans. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are dry to the touch. Remove and cool on wire racks. Top with Strawberry Frosting.



STRAWBERRY FROSTING

Puree ½ cup halved fresh strawberries in food processor. Reserve 3 tbsp. puree; save extra for other uses. Beat 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter and 1/8 tsp. Kosher salt at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 3½ cups sifted powdered sugar at low speed until blended. Add 1½ tsp. vanilla extract and 3 tbsp. strawberry puree; beat just until blended, thick and creamy.



EVELYN'S KITCHEN LEMONADE SUNSHINE CUPCAKES

Makes: 18 cupcakes Hands-on time: 1 hour Total time: 2 hours

6 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

½ tsp. Kosher salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ cup milk

2 tbsp. lemon zest

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Lemonade Frosting

1. Preheat oven to 350. Process chocolate in food processor until finely chopped. Toss chocolate with 1 tbsp. flour; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Whisk together 1½ cups flour, salt and baking soda; add to butter mixture alternately with milk. Begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Add lemon zest and juice; beat for 1 min. Stir in chocolate. Spoon batter into lined muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until cupcakes are firm but not dry. Remove and cool completely on wire racks. Top with Lemonade Frosting.



LEMONADE FROSTING

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

2 tsp. sea salt

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted and divided

1 tbsp. milk

1 tbsp. half-and-half

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp. lemon zest

1. Beat butter and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds or until smooth and creamy.

2. Add half of powdered sugar, milk and half-and-half, beating until blended; scrape down sides of bowl. Add remaining powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and zest, beating until blended and stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Beat mixture on high speed 5 to 6 minutes or until light and fluffy.